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Sight Screen

Thursday, June 30, 2005

Pretend you don't see me

Amir Mir, in Outlook, has all the details on the Javed Miandad-Dawood Ibrahim liaison. One para, one line, jumps out at you:
These sources say the proposal was approved instantly, and was followed by an engagement ceremony in Karachi, an event the two families kept a hush-hush affair as Dawood, a 'globally designated terrorist' by the United States, is not supposed to be residing in Pakistan.

Don't mean to rake up any Indo-Pak angst, but tell me something: when President Pervez needs to justify the presence of Kashmiri terrorists on Pakistan soil, he says they are "freedom fighters". And Dawood Ibrahim is what, Santa Claus?
A bit of presumably unintended irony, meanwhile -- Mumbai Mirror, the newbie site that purportedly celebrates all things Mumbai, has as lead an infographic-driven story on how Dawood hopes to hold a high profile wedding despite an Interpol warrant hanging over him. (Follow the link at your peril -- the site doesn't seem too organized when it comes to links for specific stories.)

One day mataram

With England and Australia agreeing to trial the new ODI rules in the upcoming Natwest Challenge series, expect to see plenty of analysis in the coming days.
Simon Hughes, in The Telegraph, is pretty dismissive.
We have just had one of the most explosive one day internationals in recent memory, full of exciting cricket and feisty confrontation, and now they want to change the rules.

Richard Hobson, in the Times, peels the skin of this innovation to examine the strange animal hiding beneath.
As well as giving captains one more issue to consider, substitutes hand a big advantage to the team winning the toss. The successful captain can take into account the nature of his twelfth man before deciding whether to bat or bowl. If his substitute is a bowler, for example, he can bat first and then lose one of the top order for the twelfth man.
But what of the times when the captain calls incorrectly and the opposition decide to bat? How would a substitute then be used? If the bowler replaces a batsman, the team may be light when it came to the reply. If he replaces another bowler, he could bowl only the number of overs that the first man has remaining.

Could the solution be simple? Why announce a 12th man anyway? If cricket is going the football route, why not just name the 14-member squad and the starting XI, and say that any of the three reserves can be used as substitute, provided each team gets to use only one sub per game?
To keep things in perspective, Derek Pringle in the Telegraph lists the innovations the game has seen down the years. Be interesting to trawl through the archives, and see how each of these changes was viewed at the time.

Kid stuff

Lawrence Booth, in the Guardian, says England has agreed to retool the ‘guard of honor’ following the Mathew Hayden swearing incident.
Not sure I get this – how stressful can it be to run onto the ground past a line of flag-waving school kids?
Elsewhere in the same paper, Cricket Australia says Hayden did not swear at the child, as alleged.
Hayden was accused of telling one of the flag-waving members of the guard of honour "I wish you would just fuck off" as he walked out to open Australia's innings on Tuesday but yesterday the tourists repeated their denial that he said anything of the sort.
"We asked what happened last night," said a spokeswoman for Cricket Australia. "Matthew gave us his word nothing had occurred and he has reiterated that this morning.

Nice, incidentally, to see that the Guardian is all grown up and uses the F word without asterisks – never did see much point to it, frankly.
The culprit has apologized, the match ref says no action needed, the two captains say the incident is in the past, but Hayden remains one unhappy chappie. No fair, he tells Chloe Sattlau, about the Jones throw that precipitated on-field fireworks the other day.
There was clearly some lingering ill-feeling despite Jones's apparent apology immediately after striking Hayden high on the chest while he was standing well within his ground.
"You tell me whether that's the right thing to do or not," said a clearly agitated Hayden.
"A bloke is standing halfway in the crease and he fires a ball at you as hard as you can throw and you've got absolutely no right of reply whatsoever.
"You can't get out of the way of it. [It's] like a baseball throw from 10 yards away."

Hosts not invited to party?

What the heck, found some time, so came on here. And found this: A story in the Age, that suggests India may not make the cut for the ICC Trophy – which it will host.
The key point here, of course, is that the competition is limited to the top six nations as on April 1, 2006. India is in eighth place now, and now has an added reason to push its performance levels up.

'Scusi

Baaaaaaaaaad day... one of those that grows legs and walks away from you... hence the silence on this.
Take it easy, guys, have a good day, regular service will resume, either tonight or tomorrow morning.
Cheers

Aus-Bangla thread

Damn... woke early, then figured I'd rather catch up on lost sleep than OD on coffee and watch Aus-Bangladesh. Mistake, I appear to have completely missed a fighting Bangla knock... Lee 62 in 10? Wow! Anyone watched? Any insights? Will keep this open for the rest of the game...
PS: Bad morning. Blog posts resume in about two and a half hours. FYI

Wednesday, June 29, 2005

Format change

We have a new format for the Champion's Trophy, the next edition of which is to be hosted in India -- a marked improvement on the previous avtaar with an unwieldly 12 teams and three groups.
PS: Bit of a rushed day, so off for the duration and back again tomorrow. Meantime, consider this an open forum, folks -- links you notice that is worth talking about, topics of interest, whatever takes your fancy... will come back and read, tomorrow. Adios for now

Money for jam

From the Hindustan Times, this: The bidding has begun, for the right to fix corporate logos on the jerseys of Indian players.
While Sahara is believed to have paid about Rs 102 crore for the rights, the stake is likely to go up this time round. The BCCI is expected to fix a reserve price of Rs 150 crore for the bidding.

That's the likely income from just sale of logo rights, mind -- total up the rest (ground collections, TV rights, et cetera et cetera).
Not that anyone will grudge the fact that the BCCI makes money -- but, damn, how I'd love to get hold of its annual accounts to see what it does with the money it makes. That document, of course, has now become a closely guarded secret, thanks largely to media outlets like Outlook and Rediff having in the past thrown up examples of how the money is mis-spent (for instance, check this out -- it's a longish piece, just scroll down to the last part, which is the relevant bit here).

Sunny on Solkar

Sunny Gavaskar, speaking from the depths of memory, on his departed buddy Eknath Solkar (see earlier post)-- the man, and the cricketer. Of the cited anecdotes, this one caught my eye:
It was during that big partnership between these two that the famous incident with Gary Sobers happened where again Ekki’s confidence took the centrestage. The ball had gone out of shape and as the umpires were changing it, Sardesai, who had been batting brilliantly, sat down for a breather and asked Eknath to ensure that a ball of similar wear and tear was replaced with and not a hard one.
So Eknath asked to see the replaced ball, to which the great West Indian said “what do you want to see the ball for? You are going to play and miss anyway”. Eknath stood up to his full height and responded: “You play your game, I will play mine.”

Collateral benefits

This blog isn't full-fledged, not as yet, but already I'm damned glad I started it. Over the past ten days, it's led me to three long-lost friends whose contacts I had lost in a comp crash not long ago; it's made me a few new ones; it's put me in touch with people who want to write and need a platform to do it off...
Srinivas Nippani belongs in the third category; his piece on VVS Laxman's credentials to make the ICC World XI one day team to take on Australia in the Super Series later this year is now running on Rediff, and a couple of others have sent in stories that will appear shortly.
Way cool, all this. Having been a reporter myself, I am conscious of story-fatigue. You look around, nothing much is happening, you need this day your daily byline, so you flip through your rolodex, hit upon a likely name, ask him what he thinks of Greg Chappell, or Sachin Tendulkar, or Saurav Ganguly, and there you go, story done.
Makes for boring copy -- and maybe the answer is to have more readers do the writing? Fresh voices, fresh perspectives, different viewpoints... what say? Volunteers, if any, email me please -- just the basics, name, location, and what you'd want to write about?
Off for a bit, back in here in say two, three hours...

The more the merrier?

Martin Williamson, in Cricinfo, examines the latest ICC announcements on additional members, the scrapping of ODI status for Kenya, et al.
The announcement that, from now on, the top six associate countries will be able to play full one-day internationals against each other, or any of the Full Members, is a massive and timely boost to world cricket's second-tier nations.
.
A supplementary story, also by Williamson, looks at the move's implications for Kenya.
I donno -- I'm tempted to write in to the ICC and ask for clarifications on a few points, as prelude to comment of any kind. For instance, (1) Is the promised $500,000 every four years per country, or is that the total sum to be disbursed to the six top nations over four years? and (2) No quarrels with the ICC decision to accord full status to ODIs the top six associate nations play with one another -- but does this also mean that the ICC will build, into its international calendar, matches involving these six nations with say India, Australia, England et al?
If the latter, the game could just have shot itself in the foot. Firstly, it will increase the number of ODIs each of the top nations is expected to play. Secondly, it will multiply by a factor of six the number of one-sided games we'll get to see each year -- as if the routine annihiliation of Bangladesh weren't bad enough.
Need more info -- lemme see if I can get it.

Hayden under the hammer

In a piece in the Telegraph titled 'Mr Nice Guy leads Aussies into decline', former England captain Mike Atherton argued, just the other week, that this Aussie team does not have the on-field intensity of its predecessor.
Suggesting that an aggressive on-field demeanor characterises winning teams, Atherton drew parallels with the West Indies outfit led by Viv Richards.
In 1995 the West Indies were captained by Richie Richardson, who had taken over from Viv Richards. Teams often exhibit the characteristics of their leaders and there is no doubt that was the case with the West Indies. Richards's team, like the man himself, was brooding, intense and fearsome. Richardson was more laid back and so were his players.
On what we have seen so far the same could be said of Ponting's Australians. Both in body language and tactics, the intensity and aggression that we came to expect under Steve Waugh has been largely missing this summer under Ponting.

It appears, from some comments Steve Waugh has made, that Team Australia's softer image is due not so much to the personality of skipper Ricky Ponting, as to a code of conduct the players have instituted and agreed to abide by.
Whatever -- Matt Hayden appears to have blotted the copybook already. Apart from his on-field set-to with Simon Jones -- and half the England team besides -- yesterday, there's this:
As Australia went out to field the players were asked to run through a guard of honour with children waving English and sponsors NatWest flags, but several of the Australians, including Adam Gilchrist, Damien Martyn, Brad Hogg and Hayden, skirted around the back and up the outside.
As Hayden ran along the outer side, he allegedly said to a primary-school child: "I wish you would just f... off."

Interesting, all this -- if such a conduct code exists, the Aussies are prolly going to find it pretty difficult to live up to. Already, Simon Jones -- whose throw precipitated yesterday's incidents -- has promised that it will be a no-quarters-given series; England skipper Michael Vaughan seems, discreetly, to be promising more of the same as the series hots up:
"We play it pretty tough and so do they. I wouldn't say it will be the last time that England and Australia exchange a few words, I'm sure it will happen throughout the summer."

We live in interesting times.

Brijnath on Chappell

Good morning all... on what seems to be a slow news day, Rohit Brijnath on BBC Sport makes a case for letting Greg Chappell be, without every act, every word, being analyzed under the media microscope.
He will do well to remember that this is a land of a billion coaches and he is only temporary owner of the official title.

Tuesday, June 28, 2005

Sourav update

Lokendra Pratap Sahi has the inside stuff on the he-said, she-said confusion in re Sourav Ganguly's ban.

Square Leg calling Straight

Umpires will now go hi-hello at each other with walkie-talkies instead of meeting in mid-field for their confabs.
So?
Says here, the media won't be able to listen in -- and I am not even sure I want to. 'Mr Shepherd, I think it's going to rain.' 'You're dead right, Billy -- it sure is.' 'Over and out'.
What the heck do umpires say to each other out there that is so all-fired interesting, anyways? It's not like getting a real-time peek at Shane Warne's text messages or something...
Speaking of which, is it just me or do you get the feeling, reading these messages, that the guy is as juvenile as they come? I mean, for complete lack of imagination, this collection of messages is hard to beat.

Attention deficit syndrome

Let me see if I follow the logical leap here:
#1. One day cricket is crisp and concise. It has the further advantage of having two world championship fixtures -- the ICC Trophy and the World Cup, both of which bring all qualified team on a single platform in a fixed span of time, to go head to head till one team emerges the clear winner.
#2. Yet, it is the ICC's contention that one-day cricket, which gets over and done with in a day, is not good enough to engage the attention of the bubblegum brigade, and hence innovations (now duly approved by the chief executives' committee) are required.
You guys with me so far? Fine, how then account for this little snippet I found in the midst of an ICC press note, on the official site?
The ICC Executive Board approved a proposal for the staging of a Scheduling Summit to explore the detailed and practical implications of moving the Future Tours Programme from its current five year cycle to a longer cycle of home and away international fixtures.

Excuse me? It is damnably hard to follow Test cricket's ups and downs over a five year period, to chart the ups and downs of each team over that length of time. So you want to extend the time frame? We will now have a 10-year cycle, for instance, regulating Test cricket?
Defies logic, this. I'm damn sure that despite concentrated dose of caffeine, there's something I am missing. Or am I?
On a related subject, England and Australia don't aim to wait for the official kick-off of the new rules; they'll test drive the substitution and rolling field restrictions in the Natwest Challenge next week.
The England-Australia head to head was a must-not-miss event anyways, with both teams having taken a game apiece with the third washed out, and tempers boiling over.
Now it's even more of a must-not-miss -- for fans wanting to know the implications of the new rules in actual match-play, who better to demonstrate than the top two teams in the world just now in this format of the game?
Cricinfo has put together a collection of quotes from various players past and present on the new rules; a point culled from Dean Jones' quote:
On a green pitch, put into bat, a side, at 40 for 4, might bring in an extra batsman, and score 230 instead of 180. This will also help reduce the 100-run or 10-wicket defeats. This might also give a new life to ageing players such as VVS Laxman and Anil Kumble.

Let's see -- assume VVS makes the playing XI. Which he is not much of a chance to, today, because his lack of agility in the field, and lack of scientific slogging skills at the death, go against him.
Under the new rules, VVS plays; comes in, say, with India three down for very little, and anchors the innings through to the 40-over mark. At this point, he is substituted by, let's say, Dinesh Mongia who comes in with ten overs left -- fresh legs, good eye, able to hit a long ball -- and no slouch on the field, plus he can bowl as well.
If Mongia performs in this substitute role over a period of a few games, he ends up edging Laxman for a permanent place in the side. Possibilities, possibilities...

Yes no sorry maybe?

Increasingly, I feel the need for an interpreter to help me understand English. Here's the story: ICC not reopening Ganguly's case.
Fair enough. Then you read the story, and first up, it says 'media reports are incorrect'.
Excuse me? The media didn't manufacture those reports -- the media reported what it was told by the BCCI, namely, that it was asking the ICC to reopen the case.
Anyways, that is a minor quibble. Read on, and you find this:
He said the Indian cricket board had written to the ICC on the Ganguly issue and the apex body had in turn replied to the Indian authorities. "We are now awaiting a reply from them," Mani said.

So what's that all mean? If the ICC is still 'awaiting a reply', the case doesn't seem closed. But case closed, Ehsan Mani says. It's all a bit perplexing, and it brings up my real grouse -- isn't this supposed to be the era of communication, dammit? Telephone... telex... cell phones... email... sms... chat... you name it, there's a dozen different ways to communicate in real time?
So why, when it comes to cricket, do we constantly get this guff about 'we have written'... 'a reply is awaited'... &C?
Any time a decision is needed, this is what we hear. Like, Saurav wants to play in Glamorgan; all he needs to do is inform the BCCI. Yet we get 'letter has been sent'... 'letter not received'... 'reply awaited...'... 'will respond to the reply when the original letter is replied to'... Geez, why is cricket the last remaining outpost of the pigeon post, do you suppose?

England-Australia thread

Damn, I over-slept -- got in just in time to see Mathew Hayden take one in front of middle stump, and walk back shaking his head. Open thread, folks, for the duration of the game... other posts will happen around this, later in the day...

Monday, June 27, 2005

Rahul Mehra heard from

A while ago, a reader on here sent me an email asking what had happened to Rahul Mehra and his PIL against the BCCI (for those not au courant, this link gives you the background).
Just received an email update from Rahul. As under:
I had been traveling for most part of this month and was in fact out of town for a vacation from June 12 to June 22 since all the Courts in Delhi are also closed.
My matter did not reach the board on May 25 due to which the case did
not proceed any further. However, as directed by the Delhi High
Court, I am in the process of creating a compilation incorporating
suggestions as to how the the game of cricket can be improved in
India.

That's the relevant bit -- will update you guys, as and when there are developments. Meanwhile, heading out for the rest of the day; see you in here tomorrow, when Australia and England meet again.

Calling readers in Australia

While browsing through Cricket Australia's official site, I stumbled on this press release about RP Singh and others.
Any of you guys in Aus reading this, who can talk to the lads about the academy, the scholarship, their activities and such, and file a story for the rest of us?

Can you use a laugh?

These days, I read ToI's takes on cricket when I am blue, and can use some cheering up. Never fails.
Must say, though, that I agree wholeheartedly with the headline here: Give Sachin a break.
Indeed. A break from aartis to his image morning noon and night; a break from near-hysterical pieces that seek to 'defend' him. I wonder if the defenders realize that the more aggressive they get at every imagined slight to the icon, the more it puts off those for whom cricket is a game, and Sachin merely one of the good players?
From the same paper, there's this take on the new rules about to be introduced in ODIs. 'Ganguly can replace Sachin', the headline happily proclaims -- as if the ICC spent sleepless nights trying to figure out how to bring about that happy state of affairs, and has finally succeeded. I appreciated, too, the breathless excitement of the writer who, like 'stout Cortez' sighting fresh horizons, can barely keep from jumping out of his skin:
All teams will now be virtually playing with 12 men Exclamation Mark

Indeed!
Elsewhere, Ajit Wadekar -- former captain, former coach, former manager -- tells Lokendra Pratap Sahi why he is not too hot on the new rules. Among the many gems, I found this:
“Besides whatever else is done, I’m sure the existing cricket software for laptops will have to be changed somewhat…”

And since I began this post with Sachin, let me end with him -- here, his take on the new rules, which will come into effect at the end of this month. In sum, he says no one really knows -- we'll have to play a couple of games before we get a grip on this.
Just a thought -- how about the selectors pick, as part of the upcoming camp(s), an India A side led by Ganguly and an India B side led by Viru Sehwag, and have the two sides play a best of three series under the new rules?
The players assembled for the camp can get a feel for match play; the coach can get a ringside view of how the various players perform in match situations; and the team and its leadership can get a handle on how the new rules work in practise, without waiting to figure it out in the middle of an international competition.

Good on ya, Dennis

Note: PTI's reporter can't resist the temptation to ask Dennis Lillee about Saurav Ganguly and Sachin Tendulkar; Lillee mercifully evades the question.
Come on -- why ask? What is Lillee supposed to have said anyways? 'Ganguly is a good player, will bounce back'; 'Tendulkar is a legend'... what?

Sung in C-Minor

A week is a long time in sport, a columnist in one of the British papers pointed out over the weekend.
A fortnight is even longer. In mid-June, the British press was celebrating, with unbridled enthusiasm, the imminent demise of Australian cricket.
One defeat later, everything has changed -- even a five-wicket victory over Bangladesh this weekend triggers not hosannas, but doomsday warnings. Perhaps this is where -- and why -- England will lose the Ashes: in the mind, which does not really believe the old enemy can be toppled; a mind that, at the first reverse, goes uh-oh, here we go again, it's business as usual.
The British press, this weekend, sings a uniform tune: 'Sure, we beat Bangladesh again, but watch out, the portents are ominous'. It's the line David Hopps takes in the Guardian; Vic Marks, also in the Guardian; Angus Fraser in the Independent; Richard Hobson in the Times; Derek Pringle in the Telegraph; and Mark Nicholas, in the Telegraph, who says:
Having seen a lot of Australia these past three years, I do not buy into the theory that their powers are waning. Personnel have changed but only in Jason Gillespie has there been any discernible ease off the throttle. If there is a difference, it is the way they play. The batsmen score quicker than ever, which brings the entertainer tag along with a hint of vulnerability, but the bowlers frequently resort to long spells of attrition.

Heck, even stand-in captain Marcus Trescothick, whose decision to bowl first in the Chester-le-Street game is universally acknowledged as one of the main causes for defeat, marks England's win over Bangladesh and its passage to the finals by issuing a dire warning to his own team.
Wasn't it the English poet of Avon who said something about there being a tide in the affairs of men? There is a tide for sure -- trouble could well be, England is too busy looking for sharks in the water.
PS: Still busy with a few personal issues, will be back here later in my evening.

Eknath Solkar RIP

The verandah of our home in Chennai used to have this enormous iron grille -- all geometrics and rosettes all over the place.
A neighbour, Joe Moses -- first cousin of one-time Tamil Nadu player Paul Satish Moses -- and I used, for hours at a time, to use that grill for fielding practise. One of us would throw a tennis ball at the grille, hard as we could; the other had to catch it on the rebound. All those sharp angles meant there was no way of predicting where the ball would go on the rebound -- the thrower would try to hit crazy angles, the catcher would skin his elbows and worse trying to take the resulting catch; we would keep this up till the catcher flubbed a chance, and then reverse the roles.
The inspiration was the late lamented Eknath Solkar. Specifically, a story we read in the papers at the time, of how he honed his own incredible catching skills. The story went that 'Ekki' would suspend, above head height, a wooden cradle. He would hold a tennis ball in his hand, overhead, and with a flick of the wrist, throw it into the cradle -- then tense and dive to hold the ball as it ricocheted out, at unpredictable angles.
At a time when young girls adorn their bedroom walls with posters of Jonty Rhodes in full flight (and believe me, he is still 'hot') and cricket boards hire specialised fielding coaches, it seems a pity that this quiet, unassuming, soft-spoken man, whose incredible fielding at short square leg was the unsung aspect of India's storied 1971 season, was never called on to work with the team, to inspire them with his presence, to impart the skills and know-how that made him the pre-eminent close catcher before fielding became glamorous.
Bishen Bedi said it right -- it was 'Ekki' who gave teeth to the famed spin quartet.
This was the era before live television and instant replays zoomed in on the close fielder's art. It was 1973, and I was one among thousands packed into the MA Chidambaram Stadium for the third Test of the India-England series.
At some point in the England first innings, Tony Greig swatted at 'Ekki' -- who was in his customary short square leg position -- with his bat. Seemingly in fun, but there was a touch of irritation in the action -- and the stadium erupted in catcalls; matched in volume only by the cheers with which we greeted Solkar holding Greig, in the second innings, off Salim Durrani if I remember right.
Later, at the press conference, Greig was asked about the incident. He said -- if I remember the press accounts right -- that it was in fun, but that Solkar could put pressure on anyone, standing as close as he did.
But, the reporter said, you are much taller than him, and you too stand at short square? To which Greig replied: Look, the difference is, I have to go out there and face three amazing spinners. It's bad enough taking strike to Chandra, never knowing what he will bowl next -- to have to also worry about Ekki breathing down your neck, ready to stick his hand between your pads and grab a catch off a forward defensive shot, is a bit much.
Obdurate batsman (Sunny Gavaskar stole the headlines on his debut tour of the West Indies, but the Sardesai-Solkar partnerships were as much a key to India's success on that tour as the batting of the debutant). Competent seam bowler. Brilliant close catcher. Enthusiastic -- and surprisingly good -- singer. All-round nice guy (On three different occasions, I had visited Chandrashekar at his Bangalore home -- inevitably, on each of these occasions, one of the first questions he would ask is, how is my good friend Ekki?).
Celebrate him, through this tribute by SK Sham; Tony Greig's reaction in Mid-Day; and an obit by EAS Prasanna in The Telegraph; an appreciation by Harsha Bhogle in the Indian Express.
And -- to leave you with a last impression of the kind of player he was -- there is this anecdote, narrated by Sandeep Dwivedi in the Indian Express, that sums up his cricketing spirit.

Thank you

On the evening of March 27, 1996, I went home after doing commentary on the first day's play of the India-West Indies Test -- the third of the series -- at the Kensington Oval.
Early next morning, I was readying to come to work when the doorbell rang. It was my cousin, Madhu -- to inform me that my father had died. I left for Calicut -- and Rediff posted a note saying that commentary was suspended for the duration.
A few days later -- I was in the midst of the 14-day ritual mourning period -- a courier package arrived. On opening it, I found a few hundred emailed condolences from readers.
I remember, still, the sudden lurch of emotion I felt then; I remember the tears in my mom's eyes when she realized that people from around the world, who knew neither my father nor, in a literal sense, me, were praying for him.
My family then -- and now, when Madhu is the one suffering the bereavement -- is touched by the thought, the prayers, the condolences and the goodwill that has come our way. And for this, much thanks -- a trite word, I know, but it comes from the heart.
Will be back here, in just a while.

Saturday, June 25, 2005

R.I.P

My uncle passed away, at five minutes to midnight NY time today, in Chennai after battling cancer for four years, and spending the last 24 hours in extremis.
I will not be on this till Monday. If you have a favorite prayer, say it for him, please -- he, more than anyone else, helped make me whatever I am today.

Friday, June 24, 2005

Hiatus

Blogging will happen, people -- later in my day. Open forum, meanwhile, and hopefully you find much to talk about.

Thursday, June 23, 2005

Maharashtra on the move

One day it is hiring an Aussie coach; the next day it is casting the net far and wide -- Ajay Jadeja from Delhi; Nilesh Kulkarni and Sairaj Bahutule from Bombay -- for players to beef up its team. Good to see a state association taking domestic cricket so seriously.

Sachin. Again. *sigh*

Now Kapil Dev says so sorry, when I said Sachin is finished, I didn't mean Sachin is finished, I meant Sachin will know when he is finished and with that, can this matter be finished, please? Or some such.
And in the Times -- no, not the London one, the other one -- Siddhartha Mishra celebrates Tendulkar. Or takes a class in Math 101. Not sure which.
Donno about you, but I am getting the feeling we are taking this 'cricket is our national religion' thing even more seriously than the RSS-VHP brigade takes the real thing.
It's gotten to where you just can't say anything about the pantheon -- Tendulkar, Ganguly, Dravid, whoever -- without the Shaivites, Vaishnavites, Tendulkarites, Gangulyites et cetera taking a colossal dump on you.
Come on -- celebrating a player's sporting achievement is one thing, but to elevate the chappie to godhead and to suggest that any word that even remotely smacks of criticism (and even some words that do not) is sacrilegious is a tad much. Repress healthy criticism, and you are left with the alternative -- unhealthy adulation. You want suprabathams sung to Saint Sachin, morning noon and night?

Vaughan gone?

On his Corridor of Uncertainty blog, Will argues that Michael Vaughan's forced absence from England's ODI squad is no big loss:
He’s carrying a groin injury at the moment, facing a late fitness test. And despite his 50 the other day, he continues to baffle the world at his inability to play ODI cricket. Immense class, but England need quick runs, not stodgy ones. It’s an almost identical situation to when Michael Atherton was in the side: he just wasn’t made for ODI cricket and, unless Vaughan starts scoring soon, Marcus Trescothick (or Andrew Flintoff?) might well take up the ODI captaincy.

Point well taken -- but on the day, Vaughan's replacement outdid his captain. At number three in a game of this kind, you didn't need Vikram Solanki going 34 off 69 with 47 dot balls in there -- and crucially, just five singles, pointing to an inability to get the strike across to the other guy.
In the Times (the London one, not the desi version which puts up links to stories without stories in them), Richard Hobson has an interesting take on the Vaughan question: he argues that the England captain may not be the hottest ticket in the shorter game, but to remove him from the captaincy (as prelude to removing him from the team) could be counter-productive:
In his guise as an opener, Vaughan was prone to be too aggressive too soon. It is always difficult to find the right tempo in the first 15 overs with fielding restrictions in place. His problem at No 3 has been piercing the inner ring. He does not scrape and scratch out runs in the ugly manner of Nasser Hussain, the former captain.
Yet the experience of Hussain ought to remind of the pitfalls of split captains. He never recovered true authority of the Test side once he retired from the one-day game after the 2003 World Cup. Regardless of the result this summer, England cannot afford to jeopardise enormous potential as a Test team by separating the captaincy roles again.

Moving on, Shane Warne in his column in the Times (you know the one I don't mean) says it's too soon to be writing the Aussie epitaph.
Our batsmen and bowlers have not found their rhythm so far. But is anybody really surprised? Let’s put this into perspective. Most of the guys had gone something like nine weeks without competitive cricket before they arrived. McGrath always says that he gets better as he plays, so I expect we will soon see an improvement from him. Jason Gillespie and Mike Kasprowicz also need overs behind them.

Elsewhere, on Fox Sports, this story taking Ricky Ponting to task for lying. A bit much, surely? I mean, bloke wanders in half drunk, on the morning of a game; as captain, he would want the team management to haul the player up, look into his case, decide the punishment, then make a formal announcement. In the morning, he drops the player's name from the team list and when he's asked why, what's he supposed to say? Just an off-hand 'Oh, he's a touch under the weather', as place-holder till the enquiry is complete, and a full statement can be released. (A full statement *was* released) Not quite the same as hiding the confession of the two amateur weathermen, Mark Waugh and Shane Warne, surely?
Off topic, while wandering through the Corridor of Uncertainty, found this link to another blog, which has the story of the Shane Watson-Kevin Pietersen to-do.

Point-counterpoint

Too early to know what the British and Aussie press make of the game today; Jenny Thompson on Cricinfo is first out of the blocks with a detailed bulletin.
On more general lines, Peter Roebuck in the Hindu says the countdown to the end of Aussie domination has begun; in the Express, Harsha Bhogle takes the contrary view. From Harsha, this:
I am not convinced this is a slide though. Form is being questioned at the moment, with some maybe a little more than that, but character, the reserve fuel, will soon kick in. If their current lethargy prevents their character from coming through only then can we announce the decline of a dynasty.

Elsewhere Imran Khan -- who seems to be keeping abreast of cricket when he is not scanning the fine print in international newsmagazines looking for material for his political pulpit -- couldn't care less; the Aussies, he says, dominate because the rest of the cricket world has shrunk to midget-size:
"There's hardly any match-winning bowlers these days.
"You don't have the relentless pace the West Indies had.
"I batted against them and it would just drain you, having to concentrate for so long."

Hopps on Pietersen

David Hopps, in the Guardian, celebrates England's latest savior.
It is intriguing to wonder how all this is impacting upon Duncan Fletcher. England's coach believes in nothing more than plans and strategies, carefully devised over cautious, well-spaced-out halves of lager. And then along comes Pietersen, afantasy for a coach who does not fantasise, a must-do gamble for a man who would not buy a lottery ticket without an attached print-out of the pay-out percentage.

Rayudu heard from

Following on from the earlier Omissions and Commissions post, a balanced reaction from Ambati Rayudu to being excluded.
‘‘It was expected. I’ve not had a great time with the bat and so there wasn’t any disappointment on not being called. But I am keen on correcting all those things that had been going wrong and want to get back to scoring some runs,’’ Rayudu told The Indian Express today.

England-Aussies thread

Good morning all -- ignore the time stamp, pl, I set it this way so this thread will stay on top of other postings today. Open Forum, for all those watching the game, and even those not, to input their takes on the action as it unfolds.
I will, meetings permitting, keep popping in every over or so. Regular blogging will happen around this -- see you in the Comments field in here, when the game starts.

Omissions and commissions

Sandeed Dwivedi and Faisal Shariff clear up a few questions about the names picked, and omitted from, the probables list for the upcoming coaching camp in Bangalore.
The selection committee, More said, had to make some hard choices keeping in mind the ‘36-man outer limit’. ‘‘There were some young players who didn’t quite perform in the last season and there were those who did really well. We are aware of the potential of those who were dropped but we can’t just ignore those who have done well.’’
Talking specifically about Rayudu and Dhawan, More said, ‘‘These two boys have not been left in the cold. They have a great future ahead of them. They certainly do feature in our long-term plans.’’
‘‘We have invested a lot in Rayudu. He is a player of the future.’’

Wondered a touch about the 36-man outer limit -- this article seems to suggest that is what Chappell wanted, but it's not really clear. Personally, I'd have thought when making the cut, if you felt two, three more players needed to be added, you would -- rather than get all hide bound about some artificial ceiling. Anyways.
I've been watching with some amusement the way Greg Chappell has, with minimal effort, accomplished the hardest task of all -- to wit, getting the selection committee favorably disposed to him.
This guy should be giving lessons in man management, really -- ever since he took over, he's been giving the selectors reason to feel important. He consults them at length, he suggests that chairman Kiran More should spend four-five days in the camp before the date of the actual team selection...
On those lines, check this out:
Yesterday was the selection committee’s first interaction with the new coach and Chappell seemed to have made a big impression. ‘‘He is a guru’’, More said. ‘He has some great plans for Indian cricket. I hope we are able to take full advantage of him while he is here.’’
‘‘He came into the meeting and asked us to give him 36 players because he didn’t know most of the boys. He clearly stated his requirements to us and was very concise in his requirements. Once that was done he excused himself from the meeting.’’

They love him. And by giving them a sense of importance when he can, he seems to have ensured that they will listen to him when he *does* have something to say, and be disposed to giving him what he wants. Neat.

Shastri unplugged

Well, sort of. Did you read his interview, on Deccan Herald?
This bit, without taking names, seems to be an allusion to Greg Chappell's recent statement that he would need to work out with Sachin Tendulkar his role in the team -- a comment interpreted as lese majestie in sections of our media:
For individual talent to be converted into team effort, you have to share responsibilities, be flexible with the batting order, where each man is assigned a role. Sometimes you feel that's the one of the biggest problems in Indian cricket. And certainly one of the problems John faced. If a guy has played 80, 90 or 100 Tests, it is an automatic feeling that he should know his job. No, at some stage, you must remind him if he has forgotten. There is every chance that he might have forgotten or got confused.

And this bit I'll throw in here, because that phase of mindless play was a sore point for me when doing the ball by ball commentary.
Let’s cast our mind back to the last series (against Pakistan). You have a crackerjack at the top of the order who is in brilliant form -- Virender Sehwag, who gets a blistering 173 and sets up the game for India. You cannot say that partnership in Mohali on the last day saved the game for Pakistan. The game should have been in a winning position for India by lunch on day five, if not on the fourth day.
Where we lost the initiative, I think this is where the coach has an important role to play -- to get involved in tactics. After the game was set up by Sehwag, in the last two sessions on the second day, India had 120 runs in 54 overs. And no excuse for that.
When you have Tendulkar, Dravid, Ganguly, Laxman — with that kind of talent, there is no excuse. Instead of 120, if you had got 200, the game was set up. You could have put more pressure on the opposition. That is what I mean by a little more team play. It will make India a better side.

To each his own

Inzamam gives the whole 'patriotic' trend (Jimmy Amarnath currently holds pole position, with his gimmick of planting a little national flag on the table in front of him when he sat down for the interview for national coach) a bit of a fillip by suggesting that Pak pacers have no need to come to India to train.
Fair comment, that Pakistan has in the two Ws two of the greatest fast bowlers of all time; fair, too, to suggest that the PCB should be tapping into their expertise. Strikes me, though, that countries like Australia and South Africa have produced a fast bowler or two of note -- yet, the likes of Lance Klusener, Jason Gillespie and such have come down to the MRF Academy to train.
Elsewhere, Inzy does the right thing when he suggests that Younis Khan was on the right side of the fracas involving Shahid Afridi.
He supported makeshift captain Younis Khan and said as skipper he (Younis) had the right to send Shahid Afridi as opener in the first Test. He denied the impression that he was also involved in the brawl inside the dressing room and supported Afridi.

Wednesday, June 22, 2005

Ooops

Sorry, guys, bad day in office, and it looks likely to go on till pretty late... so no updates today, but against that, will be online, and sort of live, with the Aus-England game tomorrow. See you around 8.30 am my time... and sorry about today.

Break

The blog will take a break for the rest of the working day, and get active again after 5 pm NY time... CEO calling. :-)

Man of the moment

Can't wait, can you, for Bangladesh's next ODI match -- if only to see what Mohammad Ashraful will do next? David Hopps, in the Guardian, celebrates the talented youngster.
In the quiet of the pavilion at Fenner's, back at the start of the tour, Mohammad Ashraful had risen to his full height, a good foot lower than Steve Harmison, and predicted that he would hook England's bowlers to distraction in the one-day series.
Harmison? Yes, no problems, he would hook him. Andrew Flintoff? Why not him, too?
Any fast bowler you cared to name he would hook him, because the Bangladeshi likes to hook. He had hooked Glenn McGrath and he had hooked Brett Lee. He was not about to stop now.

Selective Sachin?

Brian Lara is, this story says, getting selective about his cricket -- and making a conscious effort to play less ODIs so he can extend his Test career.
I wonder -- is there a lesson, and an opportunity, here for Sachin? Does he, whenever he returns from his injury layoff, have to play every damn match going (for instance, an ODI series in Zimbabwe, say?). Or would he -- and more to the point, the Indian team -- be better served by using him predominantly for Tests?
The longer version of the game is, first, perfectly suited to his game as he is evolving it, with premium on accumulation rather than the foot-to-the-floor acceleration that characterised his play in the 90s.
Secondly, his being rested for no-account ODIs means the team can seed fresh young players into the side and give them time to grow. It all seems to make even more sense now that Sehwag is providing the acceleration, and MS Dhoni is looking good to add his two bits to Viru's orchestrated violence.
Is resting Sachin, and using him more selectively -- in the process extending his Test life -- quite as sacrilegious as it sounds? Somehow, I think the time has come...

Import duties waived...

...apparently, on coaches from abroad. You read of course that Maharashtra has appointed an Australian coach for its state side?
The appointment seems to be for just one season -- some kind of experiment, perhaps? -- but the good bit is that Darren Holder is being given a larger role than just coaching the state team.
Besides coaching the senior team, as Director of Cricket, the Australian is expected to run a high performance cricket training programme through out Maharashtra for all age groups of cricket players, he said.

Food for thought

'Morning, all -- it's apt to be a day of intermittent blogging; my CEO leaves NY this weekend, and there's a stream of meetings to get done before that. (Oh, and? Intend to make this blog go 'live' tomorrow morning, when England and Australia play the second ODI -- join in, all those who are watching, with your own commentary).
For now, a news item I read first up this morning, and which had me wondering at the subtexts, the lines hidden behind lines.
Raises a lot of questions, this story. First up, what is triggering this recent spate of attacks on the BCCI's functioning? It's almost like guerilla warfare has broken out -- the sniping is coming from all directions, and with increasing frequency.
What prompted Wadekar to say this:
Pointing out that there was interference from the Board president in selection of teams in the past, Wadekar said, "The president should ratify the selected team straightaway. It is a must. There has to be transparency in everything that the Board does.
"I strongly feel that naming of the captain should be left to the selection committee and there should not be any interference from any quarter including the Board or its President, excepting in cases of discipline," said Wadekar, who led the country in 16 out of the 37 Tests he played in an eight-year career.

The reference is obviously to Jagmohan Dalmiya -- so then, on which instances did the BCCI chief interfere with team selection? When was the selected team not ratified -- and why? More to the point, when did the board president interfere with the picking of the captain?
That bit, about ratifying the selected team immediately, raises an interesting question. You know how team selection works, right? The selectors meet at the appointed venue; they shut themselves up in a room; they come out after a suitable interval of time, and announce the team.
To the best of my recollection, there has been no instance where the team selected and announced -- invariably, by the BCCI secretary -- was subsequently repudiated or changed by the Board. So if Wadekar has a specific instance in mind when he talks suggests the board does not always ratify the picked team at once, the subtext is the whole selection exercise we see has to be a staged play -- the real selection has to have been done before, the team picked has to have been transmitted to the board chief, the changes made, and *then* the drama staged for public consumption. That seems to be the logical deduction, from what Wadekar is saying -- and it opens up a whole new can of worms.
Outside of this, Wadekar and Kirmani make some interesting points: (1) The need for paid, professional selectors; (2) The option of players nominating selectors (not sure if that is a solution -- will there then be a tendency for players to nominate 'friendly' selectors? If I were to sit for an exam, should I get to pick the person who will frame the question paper, for instance?) (3) The lack of interaction between junior and senior selection committees -- which at least partially explains why young talent is not blooded into the team as often, and in as timely a fashion, as we would like.
Interesting stuff here -- appreciate your thoughts on all of this.

Tuesday, June 21, 2005

Chappell scopes out tech

Thanks, Steve, for this link to a Deccan Herald story; says here, Chappell visited the office of Phoenix Global Software, in Bangalore, to check out a software program designed -- with considerable input from Javagal Srinath and Anil Kumble -- to evaluate cricketers and point to their strong and weak points.
The story says the software was developed a couple of years ago, which is not strictly accurate -- it was actually developed around 2000. At the time, Sri had proposed licensing it for use by Rediff; at his invite, I'd gone down to Bangalore for a demo.
It's pretty nifty: a team of cricket-savvy programmers work off the television feed, recording every game. While the feed itself is direct from TV, the associated software is a complex interface, with several parameters possible for every ball bowled and every stroke played.
Where it comes in handy is in the realm of video-analysis. The software parses the recorded games any way you like. Assume, for instance, you want to check out a batsman's weak areas -- you can question the software, and it will throw up all the deliveries the batsman played and missed, the ones he played at without being in full control, the ones he left alone... you name it. You can similarly check every aspect of a batsman's -- or bowler's -- performance.
At the time, Sri and Anil were making calls to broadcasters, asking for archival tapes of India games to feed into their database; the more games they could record the better the results they could generate, Sri explained.
I'm not sure how different this software is, from what Bob Woolmer used to use in South Africa. But I do recall Anil and Sri telling me at the time that they had demo-ed the software to the South African authorities, who were impressed enough to want to buy it.

McGrath to open

I saw this piece in my old paper, Mid-Day, and first checked the date. Nope, not April 1. Then I checked the byline -- Khalid Ansari, the paper's founder and father of its current publisher Tariq; not a man given to hallucination.
So what to make of this story -- McGrath apparently wants to make money -- for charity, that is -- with his batting talent.
Did a Google, on the off chance the whole thing is a hoax, but there really is an Australian Primary Club.
Elsewhere in the same paper is this denial, by BCCI chief Ranbir Singh Mahindra of his comments about Saurav Ganguly, in course of an interview with Karan Thapar.
Damn -- wish I had seen this interview. Must be historic: A guy is on TV, seemingly saying something. Everyone hears him say it; the tape captures him saying it -- but in actual fact he didn't say it.
Anyone, anyone at all, out there who saw the interview and can confirm or deny what Mahindra told Thapar?

Cricket by the numbers

The ongoing Natwest series is the last to be played before the new rules -- floating substitutions, the option of splitting the field-restrictions phase into two, et al -- come into play.
David Clough, on cricket365.com, argues a hands-off policy and suggests that rules involving more knowledge of advanced math than of cricket could be counter-productive.
Modern-day limited-overs cricket also has the added mystery of Duckworth-Lewis to contend with - and while there is no doubt the formula for settling rain-affected matches is painstakingly assembled and entirely fair, the logarithm tables involved demand an extra leap of faith from all the game's followers.
Cricket needs to be pretty sure it is on the right track then before it throws another bunch of numbers into a spectacle already unavoidably beset by mathematics and equations.

Star in the making

The Times is first off the block in paying tribute to an outstanding innings by Mohammad Ashraful.
It was the heck of an innings, by any yardstick -- the strokeplay so incandescent, Paul Collingwood is quoted as saying it was like watching Tendulkar in his prime.
Every bowler he faced, he destroyed -- 2 fours in seven balls faced off Tremlett, 4 fours and two sixes (one the sort of wristy flick you would expect from an Azhar, or a Laxman) in 12 balls off Steve Harmison; 2 fours and a six in 11 balls off Flintoff; 21 runs in 14 balls faced off Ashley Giles -- and mind you, it wasn't as if the bowlers weren't trying to get the little lad out.
Check out his wagonwheel -- there's an obvious on-side bias, which you would expect from a batsman hell bent on hitting everything; but it's not as if his off play was limited. An edge and a cut behind point, two drives through the covers, one on the up through mid off... very similar, in fact, to the innings he played against Australia the other day (see wheel).
Dileep Premachandran, elsewhere, sees parallels between Cardiff and India's 1983 win over West Indies at the now defunct Albion Sports Complex, Berbice.

The ghost who walks

As if the Aussies don't have enough troubles on the field, it appears a ghost has been haunting their rooms -- Angus Fraser has the report, in the Independent.
And while on the Aussies, here's a Buchanan-eye-view of how the team is coping with successive defeats.

How narrow is narrow?

It's been a heavy work day -- and a slow news day, which makes me feel a touch easier about not blogging quite as much as usual.
This story about Arun Lal's possible hire as coach for Jharkand, is worth a read -- if only because it shows you how narrow our world view can be.
When Greg Chappell was being interviewed for post of national coach, the cry raised by Mohinder Amarnath, Ajit Wadekar and others was 'Why do we need a foreign coach, why not an Indian?'
So when Jharkand wants a coach, what happens? Chaos, confusion, in-fighting. And then this bit:
Some of the senior cricket coaches of the city have also questioned the idea of hiring Lal. “There are experienced coaches in Jharkhand who have earlier worked with the Ranji players. Lal’s presence would make things more complicated,” a city-based coach, who is also a former Bihar captain, said.

Bangla bashing back

Work is damnably difficult to do when there is live cricket on; I figured Bangladesh chasing 392 wouldn't tempt me into watching but boy, what a game. More to the point, what a player -- Ashraful, for a brief while, ignited hope. Not that you figured Bangla could hunt the target down -- but that lad is nerveless, and he can bat. To go along at close to seven an over against the England attack, till just beyond the halfway stage, was a little triumph in itself, surely?

What's with Windies cricket?

Back for a bit, one eye on the ritual annihilation of Bangladesh, the other on recent developments in the cricket world.
Windies cricket appears to be in terminal decline -- the situation getting to be so bad, they can't even get candidates for the post of board president.
The West Indies Cricket Board has postponed its annual meeting to allow more time to receive nominations for the posts of president and vice-president, an official said.
The board received no nominations for either post by Thursday's deadline, prompting it to postpone the meeting from July 17 to August 7, cricket board spokesman Leonard Robertson said late Friday. Nominations must be submitted 30 days before the meeting.

A hard-hitting piece by Vaneisa Baksh on Cricinfo argues it is not just a lack of candidates. Two good ones in Derryck Murray and Clive Lloyd, she says, came up -- and went down, for no fault of theirs.
The substandard arguments against them require little rebuttal. In the case of Deryck Murray, his sin was his challenge for the leadership of the Trinidad & Tobago Cricket Board of Control that left him persona non grata locally, and by extension within the regional cabal. None of the other boards dares to nominate him if his local board would not. Murray has ample experience, knowledge, and business background, and his commitment to cricket development is sound. Why should he be excluded?
As for Lloyd's eligibility, questioned by the TTCBC in relation to his residential status, can we have confidence in a body that would resort to such pedantry to block the former captain's contribution?

Closer home, in-fighting within the BCCI ranks gets into overdrive. Less than a month after Kamal Morarka spearheaded a move to get Lalit Modi ousted from the Rajasthan Cricket Association, Morarka has been suspended.
The gloves are now well and truly off, with the Dalmiya faction, of which Morarka is a key component, and the Modi faction locked in battle for control of the board. (Those wanting an up-close look into the mind of this man should check out a three-part interview Faisal Shariff did for Rediff, some four years back).

A must read

Was about to exit this for work, when I chanced upon a Greg Baum piece pegged on Shane Warne's latest indiscretion.
Eloquently written, this; Baum argues a case for why we need to treat sportsmen as performers on a stage -- but stop well short of investing them with moral authority and building them up as role models.
Strangely, we - the media - and the public continue to invest players and ex-players with moral authority, then to dwell upon the latest abrogation as if it has come as a shock when in fact it is not even a surprise. Not many sportspeople were pillars of society even when they lived in it. Now their world is so remote from the real world that almost nothing applies: not wage scales, not responsibility, least of all propriety.

Later, guys... off now to work.

Off for a bit

That's Strauss gone, and no 400-plus score, not today (unless Hossain bowls a couple of no-balls to end the innings).
Off to get some work done, back in here in about two hours.

More Warne

Been keeping half an eye on the Bangladesh-England game -- where England is poised to, who knows, become the first team past the 400 run barrier?; half an eye on work; and half an eye (alright, I'm kind of losing track here) on the net, where I spotted this discussion board on the news.com.au network on Warne's recent troubles.
Lots of fun posts -- my pick being this:
From: Kyle
Comment: I thought Warney was a leg spinner not a quick.

I witness

Madhav, one of the regulars on here, sent us this account of a day at Southgate, watching action in the recent Middlesex-Glamorgan (that is Irfan Pathan-Saurav Ganguly, for us) game.
Reminds me -- would love for you guys to send in your own pieces. Stat based analysis seeing the game from your own particular perspective; eye witness accounts of action; chance encounters with players... anything that tempts you into writing. At some point soon, we hope to increase the level of audience participation on the Rediff cricket pages, and this is as good a way of kicking it off as any.
The email is prem@us.rediff.com cc to prem.panicker@gmail.com

Automated quote generators?

There must be a good few tech guys out there, right? How about you do the rest of us a favor, and create an automated quote dispenser for times like this, when there is no real 'news' happening and us journos are forced to scramble for headlines?
Seems to me a black buck can't wander outside of its home these days without getting shot at. And no cricketer -- past, present, future -- can leave his home without being waylaid by a reporter who asks him whether he thinks Sachin Tendulkar's best days are over.
Welcome to the club, Kapil; good to see you here.
Let's see, there is still about a month and a half before India plays any serious cricket -- if we go at the rate of three a week, we should have just about managed to ask this question to everyone on our list of past players before serious action begins and we get something real to write about.
Sheesh!

Probable omissions

The big news of the day is the announcement of the probables list.
The good bit is the scheduling of the coaching camps -- from June 27 to July 22, the players are almost constantly under the eye of the coach, physio and the rest of the back room staff, unlike in the past where you had at best a 10-day camp to kick-start the new season.
Neat, too, that the exercise kicks off with a camp purely for physical conditionikng purposes. Years back, in course of a chat, then physio Andrew Kokinos said if he were to make a wish list, the item on top would be an exclusive camp for physical training, where he could work in a structured fashion on the players, without the 'distraction' of nets and such interfering.
I'd also assume the net has been cast so wide, when drawing up the list, so Greg Chappell can get an up close look at as much of the available talent as possible, which again is all to the good.
A couple of things puzzle me, though -- if the idea is to see as many players as possible before making the first cut of the season, why is Ambati Rayudu missing? Does anyone know if the lad is injured, or otherwise unable to attend for some reason? It's an omission that jumps out at you, if only because Chappell himself had picked him as one of the names to keep an eye on.
The other puzzling aspect is the spinners list -- is it true that there are just three spinners worth considering in a preliminary camp, in all of India?

Shame warning

The ACB caught on the horns of a dilemma here... (in passing, why "horns of a dilemma"? Where did this come from? Why do we instinctively reach for that phrase, without a clue what kind of animal 'dilemma' is, and whether its horns are straight and pointy or curved or what..?)
Shane Warne can't seem to keep his fly zipped and his cellphone turned off -- and Australian cricket could do without the resulting negative publicity (I hope like hell the stump microphones are working good, when the Ashes Tests begin -- would love to hear what the England players come up with on this).
Cricket Australia seems miffed; players association chief Tim May is clear this is a 'private matter' -- in other words, 'keep off'.
Warne himself has an interesting take on this -- if you read between the lines of his statement, the world is full of women waiting for the leggie to set foot in their country so's they can rush off to the nearest tabloid and go, hey, I slept with Warney, and guess what, it wasn't worth the while.
Meanwhile, the story of the Aussie team getting a pay rise is being invariably clubbed with the clause 'despite a bad start to the Ashes tour'. (SMH headlines the same story 'Good work boys, now here's a pay rise'; news24.com tags it 'Beaten Aussies win pay rise'.
A lesson in this for us, surely? Maybe teach us not to swing from one extreme -- deification -- to the other -- villification?
I mean, the moment we win a Test series, we are full of how India is poised to topple Aussies and become world number one; lose one, and the talk is all about how well paid the cricketers are, and how they earn millions in endorsements and don't care about the game, and so on.
The Aussies have spent what, 10 years at the top of the tree; they've put daylight between themselves and the rest of the cricketing world -- and yet, lose two games, and the impression created is they got more money 'despite losing'. Weird.

Monday, June 20, 2005

Corridor of certainty

I know I know -- said I was done for the day didn't I? Was just clearing mailbox, though, and a friend sent this link to a post on the Corridor of Uncertainty blog. Neat pic of Lord's, thought you guys might want to take a look. Cheerio, all

Round up

Oh wow, much debate on the captaincy issue I raised in the previous post -- will let it go on for a while, I think, before responding to some of the questions raised. Back here briefly, meanwhile, with a collection of links to stories of some interest:
1. An aspect of Australia's recent defeats is the speed with which the Aussie media has blown the whistle on its own team -- as for instance this editorial in The Age. Makes you wonder -- I'd thought it was an exclusively Indian tendency, to build the team up after every win, and tear it to bits after each defeat, but apparently no one is exempt.
2. Aussie coach John Buchanan, in conversation with Angus Fraser for the Independent, seems exempt from the general panic. A couple of comments worth noting:
"I have not experienced anything like this with this particular team," Buchanan admitted. "We are in a situation we have never been in before. In the past when we have had a loss, the team has rebounded pretty quickly. But we are now in new territory and, I say this tongue in cheek, England are in new territory, too. It will be interesting to see how they deal with that.

But more to the point is his take on the way forward:
"The first thing I have to do with everyone is keep what is taking place in perspective," he said. "There is always a danger that you can over-analyse when things are not going well, and this can potentially lead to players not wanting to back their skill or their decision-making.
"You don't want the players thinking, 'I'd better not do this in case it leads to an error'. I would rather they had a go, because at least then they have made a decision. If it then goes wrong it comes down to execution or poor decision-making. But at least then you have something to work with, which is not the case when you make no decision at all."

3. Briefly going off the Ashes topic, did you guys spot this story on Rod Marsh, who is all set to quit as the director of England's coaching academy?
Rod Marsh has removed himself from England's selection panel as part of his countdown to the end of his reign as the National Academy Director at the end of this summer.
The former Australian wicketkeeper announced his decision to end his post at the Academy and return home earlier this year, but has remained on the selection panel alongside chairman David Graveney, Geoff Miller and coach Duncan Fletcher.
But Marsh has announced he would no longer be an active member of the selection panel as he prepares to return home to Australia and will instead oversee the handover of the Academy to successor Peter Moores.

Raises a thought -- isn't it an idea, if and when the BCCI gets down to revamping the selection committee, to find on it a place for the head of the national academy? After all, theoretically it is the NCA head who should have the most in-depth information about emerging talent, yes?
4. Back to the Ashes, and Kevin Pietersen is the subject of a Matthew Pryor profile in the Times. To me, the standout excerpt is KP's take on being sledged by Graeme Smith of South Africa:
“He has no wit. He just made a load of ridiculous comments. I don’t think he’s too intelligent, actually. People like Pollock and Kallis were fine, it was just Smith. And I’d never even spoken to him before in my life. But I know a lot of people who have no time for him, including his players.”

5. Christopher Martin-Jenkins alone doesn't seem to have bought into KP-mania -- his take on whether England's newest star is ready for a Test berth draws parallels with the last South African import to make the British team -- a certain Graeme Hick. Even in his match report, Martin-Jenkins avoids the unadulterated euphoria of his peers
6. Derek Pringle in the Telegraph has been consistently making the case that this is England's year; here is his take on the PK blitz at Bristol.
Interestingly, one newspaper described him as surfing a monster wave of adrenalin as he seemingly cleared the boundary at will, though this surely applied more to those watching than to Pietersen. Certainly, those sportsmen best at coping with pressure tend to be those who keep their adrenalin rushes under control. Sunday's carnage was not the result of raging hormones but a cool and calculating mind that Australia will do anything to get inside.

7. Elsewhere, the Adam Hollioake hat trick appears to have taken the sheen off Rahul Dravid's 62 off 47 in the tsunami-benefit game; this report has a bit more detail.
Anyone saw the game? Any eyewitness accounts to share? Care to write it up for Rediff?
8. In the Statesman, RC Rajamani has a first person account of his meeting with Mushtaq Ali; Harish Pandya, who has done a lot of work for Rediff in the past, writes his obituary for the Guardian.
9. Sharad Dravid, in the Deccan Herald, on the joys of being the father of a cricketing superstar.
10. Sachin Tendulkar opens the India Room at the Oval -- any of you guys in England planning to visit? How about treating the rest of us to an eyewitness take -- and, what the hell, might as well ask for the moon, some pix -- on the place, the room, and such?
11. And finally, the judge gives the Nawab of Pataudi bail in the poaching case, despite allegedly receiving telephone threats promising mayhem if he let the Nawab out.
Postscript, before I log off for the day: The debate on the merits and demerits of Saurav Ganguly as national one day captain (one day, please note -- one of the posters has an elaborate argument on why he shouldn't lead in Tests, but it doesn't seem to fit) could tend to get sidetracked by the fact that Saurav Ganguly is as on date serving a six-game ban.
I need to mention that in writing what I did, I discounted that -- because last heard from, the BCCI was putting together a legal brief that seeks to overturn the ban, which will be presented before the ICC during the upcoming general body meeting in London. My take hasn't taken that ban into account because I figured the ICC will likely set the ban aside -- if it does not, then all bets are obviously off. The post needs, guys, to be read with an 'all else being equal' mindset, do note.
Good night all, see you back tomorrow.

The question of captaincy

It is, mercifully, a slow news day (I mean, how many stories in how many different newspapers, all much of a muchness really, can we read, about the Aus-England game?) -- so that gives me time to ignite a little debate on here, on the question of India's captaincy.
If I were sitting down to pick a captain, I'd scribble some think-points for myself, first. Broadly, these:
1. I have a new team management in place -- hence, a certain 'holding period' is desirable while the new coach, and his support staff, gain a degree of familiarity with the members of the team.
2. I do not, as on date, have to pick a captain for both forms -- India kicks off its season with a one-day series in Sri Lanka in August. Hence, I only need to pick a one-day captain for now. This gives the team management a buffer of time in which to observe form, and such intangibles as team spirit, dressing room atmosphere, leadership qualities and such.
Given this, I would only announce at this point the captain to lead India in Sri Lanka, with the captain for the tour of Zimbabwe to be announced August 15.
Before picking my captain for the August start of the season, I would spend some time thinking about who I would want leading India in, let's say, 2008.
It is eminently possible that one of the younger players -- Mohammad Kaif, Yuvraj Singh, maybe even Dinesh Mongia, who knows -- could in the interim put his hand up with some spectacular, and consistent, performances. But for now, given the existing personnel and their potential, I find it hard to look beyond Virender Sehwag for the long term role.
There is a body of thought that he is an instinctive player, that he does not think about the game -- both at an individual level, and in the collective. But in Sehwag today, you see what was obvious about Saurav Ganguly in the late 90s and around 2000: a very visible, very high-energy involvement in the field (keep an eye on the guy the next time India plays -- he is invariably a part of on-field discussions, often he is the one who initiates them, at times you see him off his own initiative adjusting field positions...), and an equally apparent hunger for the top job.
For all of these reasons, I'd earmark him for the future captaincy (obviously, continued form permitting). And I'd make clear to him now that this is his apprenticeship period -- an opportunity, as Ricky Ponting had under Steve Waugh, to grow into the job, to perfect his own style of leadership so that when the mantle came to him, he would be ready in all particulars.
Which then leaves the question of today's leader. I would, personally, leave the captain's armband with Saurav, for several reasons:
1. Lack of a valid reason for change: During the Indo-Pak Test series, I had the distinct impression that Saurav's lack of confidence in his own batting was translating into a certain defensiveness in the field.
Saurav acolytes will probably argue this with some heat, but I believe a team playing under a more confident Ganguly would have won the Mohali game, and likely the Bangalore game as well -- or at the very least, ended the tour with a 2-0 result.
When it came to the one-dayers, though, it was a different story -- the run of four defeats at the hands of Pakistan did not owe, as obviously, to the captaincy (keep in mind, too, that Saurav did not lead in all of them).
Key components malfunctioned, all at the same time -- the openers did not get off to the sort of starts the team is used to; the middle order was brittle; fielders went off the boil and, crucially, the bowling was, for the most part, lacking in aggression and imagination.
Changing the captain was not going to solve any of those ills -- in fact, we did change the captain, with Dravid leading once Ganguly was banned, but that change at the top did not bring any visible change to the way the team played.
2. The oft-cited TINA (there is no alternative) factor: Rahul Dravid seems the logical candidate -- but while I would be tempted to consider him for Tests, I am not too keen on his credentials as a one-day skipper. Rahul is just that touch too bookish, too much a creature of order and method and too little reliant on flair and instinct, to suit the short-form game. And outside of Rahul, there is no logical challenger for the job -- it is too early for Sehwag and probably too late for Anil Kumble.
3. Continuity: Off the field, the team in these coming weeks will have enough on its hands adjusting to a new coach, a new support staff, new methods; the last thing it probably needs is to have to adjust to a new captain and new on-field thinking as well.
The one question mark that remains is form. Had I been picking a captain in the immediate aftermath of the Pakistan series, it would have loomed large. That is the thing with the off season, though -- everyone starts afresh. There is some evidence that Saurav is getting to spend more time in the middle, on the English county circuit, and regaining a measure of his touch -- so the question of form, especially in the short-form version of the game, doesn't worry me too much just now.
Besides these key reasons, there are a couple of others. Firstly, Sachin Tendulkar will not be playing for India for at least four months -- and that leaves an immediate vacuum at the top. Conventional wisdom will probably indicate Mahendra Singh Dhoni as the likely pick -- a Dhoni-Sehwag pairing could in fact be devastating if it clicks, and Dhoni could gain immensely from the experience Sehwag brings at the other end.
The trouble, though, is Dhoni hasn't had time to try his hand at the job; if he fails, there is absolutely no backup. In Saurav, you have a player who has a very good record at the top of the order, which covers that base. Further, if you have Sehwag-Dhoni opening and the pairing clicks, then the only other base to cover is the middle order, where Yuvraj and Kaif appear to have gone off the boil a touch. The idea of an in-form Ganguly coming in to bat in the middle overs, to a softer ball and with spin predominating, is immensely attractive -- he can afford to take a little time to settle in; the ball is not likely to be seaming around quite as much nor will there be close catchers to take advantage of the odd edge, and once he is set, there are not too many players around who can explode the way he can.
There is one other reason -- and this goes back to what I said earlier, about a new management needing transition time, to seed its ideas. Ganguly has worked with Chappell before, the two share an obvious respect and rapport -- the coach will probably find it easier to get the team thinking his way, if he already has a champion in his captain.
Given all this, I'd pick Saurav to lead India to Sri Lanka. I would use that tour to assess his form, his on-field confidence, the synergy with his coach and back-up team, and all related matters. And on August 15 -- by when I have enough empirical evidence to go on -- I would announce India's captain for both Tests and one-dayers, for duration of the season.
Right, that's the promised take on the captaincy -- now to hear what you guys think. Have a busy day ahead, meanwhile, so not likely to come back in here the rest of the day.
Cheerio, all, see you tomorrow.

Open season on Aussies

So it's official, by media concensus -- Australia's cricket team has imploded; the team has lost its lustre; their reputations have been flushed down the toilet; they are struggling to make an impact and almost everything that can go wrong, has. That last story, from sportinglife.com, has Richard Gibson analysing each player and finding little if anything positive to say about most.
Even Ricky Ponting seems to be feeling the pressure, if his instinctive search for quickfix solutions -- bring back Brett Lee, bring back Andrew Symonds -- is any indication.
One thing this does is put matters in perspective for us -- remember the collective down when the Indian team went through its own bad patch last season? Batsmen and captain losing form, bowlers losing the plot, the fielders going off the boil? Happens to the best, we now find -- so maybe we can step back a tad, and let the national team find its feet again?

No comments

Appended to an earlier post, is a link to this opinion piece in the Telegraph.
Thanks for the link -- made interesting reading. Do I have comments? Um, no -- I am frankly at a loss for words on this one. :-)
Meanwhile, it is Monday -- much as I want to go trawling the web to see what various papers made of the England-Aus match yesterday, the first day of the week is about edit meetings, news budgets and suchlike stuff that cannot be postponed. Will be away for a couple of hours, will be back by three my time, and regular blogging resumes then.

The Pietersen effect

Even the Aussie press is beginning to view England's latest wunderkind as something more than a pretty face with freaky hair.
Yesterday was the first I got to watch him bat; something about his bottom-handed style of play got me curious. Check these wagonwheels out:
1. 91 not out off 65 versus Australia at Bristol June 19. 63 of his runs on the on side, 44 of those in the midwicket arc
2. 116 off 110 versus South Africa at Centurion February 13. 84 off those 116 runs on the on side -- 37 through midwicket, 40 through mid on.
3. 108 off 96 versus South Africa at Bloemfontein, February 2. 62 runs on the on, 42 of those in the midwicket arc.
Does it give you the sense, as it does me, of a predominantly bottom-handed player whose comfort zone is on the front foot to deliveries pitched up and on line of the stumps, swinging the bat through the arc onto the on side? Of the Aussie bowlers who bowled at him yesterday, only McGrath and Brad Hogg kept the ball outside off, and a tad short of driving length -- it could be coincidence that these were the two bowlers he didn't really get hold of.
Then again, it could also be that the Aus think tank didn't take him as seriously as it should have, didn't do the due diligence. For me, a major point of interest in the next match-up between these two sides is the line the Aussies bowl to him, and how Pietersen copes.

Deja view

You guys remember the 1999 World Cup? The one where Australia started off on the wrong foot, seemed down and out, and spurred Steve Waugh into making his now-famous war cry: All we have to do is win seven in a row?
Dean Jones was one of Rediff's columnists for that Cup; on my way to work this morning, I was remembering a column he wrote for us at the time.
Check out the problems enumerated here: Sloppy batting; bad fielding; rubbish bowling characterised by a lack of discipline; a weak fifth bowling option; an ageing team; off field problems centering around -- who else? -- Shane Warne...
Interesting column -- change the date and a couple of names, and this could have been written yesterday.
Deano wrote a sequel to this column, that is equally worth reading.
Why do I bring this up? Because the very first story I spotted this morning was one on Fox Sports, asking the question: Is the Aussie dynasty over?
Here's the funny part -- when the Aussies were steamrolling over everyone in sight, concensus in the cricketing world was that for the good of the game, the world champions needed to be pushed, to feel the pressure. That teams should emerge capable of challenging the Aussie hegemony. That without strong contenders emerging, interest in the game will ebb -- who wants to see one team winning everything, all the time?
So now that is happening. India in Australia showed that the champions could be tamed; England is now taking the fight to the Aussies. Cricket is not looking like a one-team game anymore. And all of this is to the good -- but surely, reports of the team's imminent demise is wildly exaggerated, surely?

Sunday, June 19, 2005

The list

Collingwood's effort in the field today -- a real stunner it was, too -- prompts the Press Association to come up with its list of the five top catches, presumably of all time or at least, of relatively recent memory.
Similarly inspired, BBC Sport comes up with its own list -- with somewhat, but not entirely, similar results.
Your turn -- memorable catches, guys, that linger in your mind?
And from me for now, that is it. Heading out -- it is, after all, Sunday afternoon; see you in here Monday morning. Take care all, enjoy what remains of the weekend.

News briefs

Haven't been able to keep an eye on county action today; you guys have any insights, eye witness accounts etc, please post.
Meanwhile, Rahul Dravid, Viru Sehwag etc figuring in Twenty20 action tomorrow; be worth keeping an eye on this to see how they go?
In the West Indies, same old same old. Seems like each time they head into a fresh series, the contract disputes come to the fore again.
Elsewhere, the Dawood Ibrahim-Javed Miandad liaison seems to be confirmed, a day after it was vehemently denied. The Australian takes note of the happening, with this headline: Batter's Match with Bomber
Pakistan spent a good few years trying to persuade India to cross the border for cricket tours -- and the argument was, to play sport is good for releasing tensions, it is one of the possible confidence building measures. Apparently the theory only holds for cricket -- there's this story that Indian boxers have been denied visas for Pakistan. Time, you think, for the government and the BCCI to put its collective foot down and say hey, look, you can't pick and choose -- if cross border sports tours are good, then it has to apply to all sport, not only to those that make you money?

Links....

1. The English tabloids ripping into the Aussies following the Bangladesh defeat -- and this is nothing compared to what they will do after England's win today.
2. Inevitable question, I guess -- was the defeat against Bangladesh the worst moment in Aus sporting history?
3. It was not only the tabloids that tore Aus a new one, though. Vic Marks headlines his piece in the Guardian thus: Arrogant Aussies humbled.
The astonishing truth is that Australia, acknowledged as the best side in the world in all forms of the game - except perhaps Twenty20 - were clinically outplayed by the minnows of world cricket. Mashrafe Mortaza was the best bowler on view yesterday. Mohammad Ashraful, who sparkled in the evening sunshine, played the best innings, a brilliant century. Australia dropped more catches than Bangladesh, who, in contrast to their opponents, took all the right decisions - Ricky Ponting's preference to bat first was a mistake, based on the assumption that this match could not be lost.
The Australian bowlers could not bully the Bangladeshis as England's have this summer. The pitch was too slow for that and so is the Australian pace attack when Brett Lee is not playing.

4. Marks, in his preview of the Aus-Enggame, put his finger on the main chink in the Aus armor, when he pointed at the bowling:
They will score runs, probably rapidly. But so far their bowling has looked distinctly mortal and they will probably be hindered by the absence of Brett Lee today.

5. The bowling attack, again, the focus in the Scyld Berry of the Telegraph's review of the Aus-Bangla game:
Bangladesh, at the start of their reply, were as subdued as Australia but they perked up as soon as Australia's three pace bowlers had finished their opening spells. Brad Hogg has shortened his run-up a la Warne but not increased his control of length; Clarke cannot match his predecessor Darren Lehmann for wiliness, while Hussey would hit his own medium-pace a long way.
On a dried pitch against this motley change-bowling Mohammed Ashraful went to town. When McGrath came back, Ashraful smacked him over extra-cover twice, with scarcely a protest from the bowler, let alone a stomp.

6. Variations on the theme -- Michael Atherton, in his column in the Telegraph, says:
What are we to make of Australia's early wobbles? Is it mere rustiness or something more terminal? Undoubtedly they will improve, but there are areas that must be giving Ponting some concern. Their hegemony over the last decade has been largely based on better bowling and out cricket than their opponents. And it is precisely these two areas where they have looked most out-of-sorts.

And again:
As for the fielding, the two defeats last week simply reinforced the impression that this is an ageing Australian team whose best days in the field are long behind them. The number of fumbles, mis-fields and grasps at thin air brought to mind some England performances of the past that had Australian observers choking on their amber nectar.

7. I noticed, in the Telegraph, this take on Michael Kasprowicz by Steve James, the guy who roped in into the Glamorgan team in 2002. Kaspar -- as the man who took Brett Lee's place, and has to provide both support, and cover, for the two fronting bowlers, a very key component of the attack; his being taken for 68 in 9 today meant Ponting had problems with an off color Gillespie, and with the guy who should have covered for him.
8. Stephen Brenkley, in the Independent, on the Aus defeat to Bangladesh at Cardiff:
Two things stood out about Australia in the way they accepted their fate. When Ashraful was out with 23 still wanted, Adam Gilchrist shook his hand as he departed, a remarkable gesture in a tight match. When they had lost, their captain Ricky Ponting was calm but straight talking. "It was one of the biggest upsets in the history of the game," he said anticipating the public reaction at home. "We have got to be made aware of that and if it doesn't make us lift our game nothing will."

Brenkley's match report on the game, incidentally, has a fun headline: Ashraful turns Aussie swagger into a stagger.
9. Same author, with a take on Michael Vaughan; the significant bit in here is this take on the England skipper's working style:
He is at once different and not so different from his immediate predecessor Nasser Hussain. No player would be advised to mess with either of them. But Vaughan's door is more obviously ajar. If he had a policy in June 2003 it was on the importance of communication - to let players have their say.
"I think communication around the team is pretty good," he said. "We're open and we've got a good spirit which has come from being together and working together, doing a lot of things together. Of course winning helps your spirit. People believe in what you're doing and gain confidence."

10. The Aus press also pretty unsparing of their champion team:
Australia's world champion cricket team now has another place in history, and its Ashes tour a place in the doghouse.

The piece also has an update on Andrew Symonds -- whose drinking cost the side a big hitter in the middle order, and a support bowler for the big boys:
Symonds is understood to have been drinking early into yesterday morning and it was only revealed during the side's warm-up that he was in no fit state to play.

11. The SMH, again, quite caustic about the team's problems, both on the field and off it. In a piece titled Australia caught with its pants down, SMH says:
Disgraceful on the field. Disgrace off it. Australia's world champion cricketers - Andrew Symonds especially - are hanging their heads in shame after a five-wicket one-day loss to Bangladesh, the worst team in international cricket.
And if that wasn't enough, Shane Warne is in trouble again

12. While the focus is on Aus, quite a few stories on the celebrations in Bangladesh. and then there is this one by Chloe Sattlau, in the SMH, where one passage caught my eye:
Bangladesh coach Dav Whatmore admitted he had been frustrated over the years by Ashraful's habit of getting out cheaply despite his precocious talent, and was hopeful his young star would learn to protect his wicket like he did on Saturday.
"God, I hope so," the Australian said. "He won't get a hundred every innings, but just to make the bowler earn his wicket is all I want."

13. Of all the stories I saw today, though, perhaps the most significant is this one on the Australian fielding standards declining, which I spotted in The Age. The paper talks to Mike Young, the baseball coach who for a while was working with the Aus team on its fielding skills:
"There's no doubt in my mind that the last few years, there has been more and more focus on batting and bowling and less on fielding," Young said. "Especially with one-day cricket, there needs to be more focus on that part of the game. It's vital to any team's chances but sometimes tends to get overlooked.
"Ground fielding needs repetition and a lot of focus on proper techniques. I do feel that lacks in cricket. There's a lot of drill work, but not a lot of instruction. I thought we made strides in that area, and it's disappointing to hear (the Australians) aren't doing so well in that department. They're great athletes . . . but you need to keep working at it.

If that passage underlines the importance of rigorous, focussed practise even for a naturally athletic bunch like the Aussies, check this one out -- did the Aussies become so gung-ho about their batting and bowling skills, they took their eyes off the ball, literally, when it came to honing their fielding skills?
"I (Mike Young) wanted to stay . . . but I was basically forced out the door. After two or three years working with them, and with my background in coaching, I was getting frustrated and, quite frankly, somewhat insulted. I would love to work with the Australians again and my door is always open."

Interesting: Aus, you thought, always places importance on its support team, honors the back room boys and works with them. But here's the guy who taught them the finer points of outfielding, and throwing, saying he was forced out, that he was frustrated, occasionally even insulted. Strange.